Election 2021

The Scottish Parliament is in recess ahead of the election on 6 May.

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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 17 March 2021 [Draft]

Agenda: Human Right to a Healthy Environment, Portfolio Question Time, Scotland’s Railway, Testing Strategy, Business Motion, Domestic Abuse (Protection) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3, Domestic Abuse (Protection) (Scotland) Bill, Scottish Land Commissioners (Reappointment), Standing Order Rule Changes (Urgent Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body Questions), Standing Order Rule Changes (Public Petitions System), Standing Order Rule Changes (Equalities and Human Rights Committee Remit), Business Motion, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Clydebank Blitz (80th Anniversary)


Contents


Parliamentary Bureau Motions

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

The next item of business is consideration of Parliamentary Bureau motion S5M-24398, in the name of Graeme Dey, on approval of a Scottish statutory instrument.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the Coronavirus (Scotland) Acts (Amendment of Expiry Dates) Regulations 2021 [draft] be approved.—[Graeme Dey]

The Presiding Officer

Donald Cameron wishes to speak against the motion.

18:17  

Donald Cameron (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

The SSI seeks to extend the application of the two Coronavirus (Scotland) Acts for a further six months, to the end of September 2021. The Scottish Conservatives recognise that the Government has, in general, taken a constructive approach to these matters—for example, by expiring some redundant provisions in the legislation. However, a few weeks ago, the COVID-19 Committee heard powerful evidence from Inclusion Scotland, which represents disabled groups, and the Scottish Police Federation. Although they come from very different perspectives, those organisations were of the view that, instead of simply extending the legislation, we should take stock at this point.

We agree. A full year has passed, and much has happened in that time. Surely, at this point, it is correct to analyse what has worked and what has not worked in the emergency legislation, especially in the light of its significant impact on civil liberties and human rights. None of us want emergency legislation to persist. Indeed, by its very name and nature, it should only ever be temporary. It is also significant that we are about to enter an election period. When a new Parliament is elected and a new Administration is formed, the vaccination programme will be much further along and, hopefully, the virus will be in full retreat.

Today marks several milestones in the vaccination programme. Some 25 million people across the United Kingdom have been vaccinated, which is almost half the adult population, and, in total, 2 million people in Scotland will have been vaccinated by the end of today. Accordingly, after the election, we should be in a much less restrictive position in terms of our everyday lives. The First Minister highlighted that only yesterday, when publishing the Scottish Government’s strategy for exiting lockdown, which assumes a staged return to normality over the coming months. In our view, it would be right that a new Administration, with an electoral mandate, would decide at that point whether emergency legislation was required and, if so, in what form.

It is worth noting that the proposed extension applies to the Coronavirus (Scotland) Acts but that the two acts do not contain health protection measures or the power to make health protection measures. Instead, the Scottish Government’s power to make health protection measures arises under the UK act, so the Government’s ability to impose or ease public health restrictions will continue regardless of whether the dates in the Scottish acts are extended.

For all those reasons, the Scottish Conservatives will vote against the SSI at decision time.

18:20  

The Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Europe and External Affairs (Michael Russell)

I want to make one thing abundantly clear at the start: the pandemic is not over, and it will not be over if Donald Cameron simply uses the word “hopefully”.

I also want to make it clear that it is vital that the regulations be approved. The two Scottish acts contain essential practical measures that enable ministers and public authorities to take steps to mitigate the impact of Covid. Let me offer two examples to illustrate that.

Justice provisions that are much talked about by the Conservatives, which enable business to be conducted by electronic means, such as those that allow for remote jury centres and the digital sharing of case documentation, enable the justice system to function as safely and efficiently as possible. We would lose those provisions.

Valuable protections are afforded to renters that help to provide certainty for tenants, including those who have become unemployed during the pandemic. Those protections would finish, and evictions could start.

The importance of those measures was reflected in evidence that was given to the COVID-19 Committee when it called for views. Evidence from Shelter Scotland, the University and College Union Scotland, the National Union of Students Scotland, Citizens Advice Scotland, the Law Society of Scotland, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and the Lord President, to name but a few respondents, was strongly supportive of having the provisions available after 31 March. That is the question. The question is not about the coming election; the question is, what will happen in two weeks’ time?

I am disappointed that the Conservative Party has chosen to vote against the regulations. The convener of the COVID-19 Committee justified that position by saying that we should take stock. However, that is precisely what the legislation does. The two acts deliberately ensure that the provisions are renewed regularly. I have been clear that they should be available only for as long as is necessary, and I have reported to the chamber on every occasion that the legislation has required me to. We have regulated to expire or suspend provisions when that has been appropriate. I ask members to agree to the continuation of the provisions, which remain essential to dealing with the pandemic.

The convener of the COVID-19 Committee said that it will be for a new Administration to decide on the necessary measures. I do not disagree; that is perfectly possible. However, there will be no new Administration in place on 1 April, and, if the regulations are not renewed, that is the date on which the provisions will fall. [Interruption.] No, I would like to finish, please.

I believe that that would be reckless and would leave Scotland without the ability to appropriately respond to many of the negative impacts of the coronavirus. I cannot believe that that is the position that the Parliament would wish to put itself or the people of Scotland in. Therefore, I ask Parliament to renew the regulations. In doing so, I remind members that ministers will continue to be required to report on the legislation on a bi-monthly basis. We will publish such a report on 14 April, even though the Parliament will not be in session, and we will retain provisions only for as long as is necessary.

The Presiding Officer

The question on the motion will be put at decision time.

The next item of business is consideration of 14 Parliamentary Bureau motions. I ask Graeme Dey, on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau, to speak to and move motion S5M-24399, on temporary amendment to standing orders, and motion S5M-24400, on approval of a Scottish statutory instrument; and to move motions S5M-24401 to S5M-24409 and S5M-24411 and S5M-24412, on approval of SSIs, and motion S5M-24410, on referral of an SSI.

18:23  

The Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans (Graeme Dey)

On motion S5M-24399, on temporary amendment to standing orders, as members will be aware, we recently agreed a change to standing orders that allows us to bring forward temporary standing orders. The Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee identified a need to provide some flexibility should it be required for the Parliament to be able to conduct its essential first items of business in session 6 in a way that ensures compliance with Covid safety measures. Given the time left until the Parliament rises for the campaign recess, the committee asked the Parliamentary Bureau to bring forward such changes, and we have done that.

The proposed temporary standing orders will clarify that any members who are unable to attend in person—for example, if they are shielding or self-isolating—will be able to take the oath or make an affirmation remotely during a meeting of the Parliament.

The proposed measures will also allow the election of the Presiding Officer and Deputy Presiding Officers to be conducted by secret ballot as usual, but with adjustments made to ensure that physical distancing is observed. They will ensure that any member who cannot attend the Parliament to cast their votes in the PO and DPO elections will be able to instruct the clerk to complete a ballot on their behalf.

The proposed measures will also provide for the continued closure of the public gallery until the new Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body can make a decision on public access to the Parliament.

These are considered to be sensible and proportionate measures to allow the establishment of the new Parliament following the election. I invite members to support them.

Finally, as I am required to do in relation to motion S5M-24400 as it relates to a Scottish statutory instrument on Covid, I advise members that the instrument provides that driving lessons and tests may be provided for or undertaken by certain limited categories of workers in level 4 areas. Such workers include those in the police and the fire service and the employees of bus companies where such companies have been appointed to provide employee driving tests and training. That regulation came into force on 19 February 2021.

Motions moved,

That the Parliament agrees, with effect from 12 May 2021—

(A) the following temporary rules under rule 17.1A—

Temporary Rule 1

Election of the Presiding Officer and deputy Presiding Officers

1. This Rule applies to the election of the Presiding Officer and any deputy Presiding Officers to be held at the beginning of Session 6 by virtue of Rules 3.2 and 3.3. It ceases to apply on 30 June 2021.

2. Any meeting of the Parliament convened for this purpose may be held in the Debating Chamber of the Parliament, Holyrood, or at any other location within Holyrood as may be determined by the Presiding Officer, and members shall be notified of that location or locations.

3. A member may, at any time during the period which is not earlier than 90 mins and not later than 30 minutes before the time appointed for the beginning of the voting period for Presiding Officer or, as the case may be, the first voting period for deputy Presiding Officer, nominate a candidate for appointment as the Presiding Officer or a deputy Presiding Officer by submitting a written nomination to the Clerk. A nomination shall be valid only if it is seconded by another member.

4. The vote at an election shall be by secret ballot and shall be held during the voting period appointed under Rule 3.2 or 3.3. Where there is more than one candidate, there may be more than one round of voting in accordance with paragraphs 13 to 18.

5. The result of any vote under this Rule is valid only if the number of members who voted is more than one quarter of the total number of seats for members. For this purpose, in calculating the number of members who voted—

(a) account shall be taken not only of those voting for or against a candidate, but also of those voting to abstain; and

(b) where there is more than one round of voting the result of each round of voting shall be treated as a separate result and the number of members who voted shall be taken to be the total number who voted in that round.

If the result of any vote at an election is invalid under this Rule, no candidate shall be elected at that election.

6. Each candidate may appoint a member to act as a scrutineer on that candidate’s behalf. Each scrutineer may monitor the counting of votes by the Clerk and may request the Clerk to perform a count again. The Clerk may refuse such a request only if the Clerk considers it unreasonable.

7. Members may participate in the election of the Presiding Officer or any deputy Presiding Officer in person or remotely by video conference hosted on such platform as may be provided by the Parliamentary corporation.

8. Any member may, at the beginning of a round of voting, obtain a ballot paper from the Clerk, either in person or, where a member is participating remotely, by electronic means.

9. Any member who obtains a ballot paper in person shall immediately mark that member’s vote on that ballot paper and then put the ballot paper in the ballot box provided for that purpose by the Clerk. That member may not thereafter obtain another ballot paper or vote during that round of voting.

10. Where a member is participating remotely, the Clerk shall facilitate the process and in doing so shall ensure the secrecy and confidentiality of it. The member shall use such platform as may be provided by the Parliamentary corporation for this purpose.

11. Any member participating remotely shall obtain a ballot paper from the Clerk by electronic means. Once the ballot paper has been received, the member shall immediately indicate to the Clerk the voting intention of that member. The Clerk shall mark that member’s vote on a ballot paper in accordance with that member’s voting intention, verify with that member that the ballot paper has been marked correctly and then put the ballot paper in the ballot box provided for that purpose. That member may not thereafter obtain another ballot paper or vote during that round of voting.

12. Where there is only one candidate in a round of voting, a member may vote for or against that candidate or to abstain. At the completion of that round of voting the Clerk shall count the votes and inform the person chairing the meeting of the number of votes for the candidate, the number of votes against the candidate and the number of votes to abstain. The candidate shall be elected if a simple majority of votes in the candidate’s favour is obtained.

13. Where there is more than one candidate in a round of voting, a member may vote for one of those candidates or to abstain. At the completion of each round of voting in which there is more than one candidate, the Clerk shall count the votes and inform the person chairing the meeting of the number of votes for each candidate and the number of votes to abstain.

14. Where there are two candidates in a round of voting, a candidate shall be elected if a simple majority of votes in that candidate’s favour is obtained.

15. Where there are more than two candidates in a round of voting and the number of votes for one candidate exceeds the total number of votes for all the other candidates, that candidate shall be elected.

16. Where there are more than two candidates in a round of voting but no candidate is elected under paragraph 9, the candidate or candidates with the smallest number of votes shall be eliminated and there shall then be a further round or rounds of voting until—

(a) a candidate is elected in accordance with paragraph 12, 14 or 15;

(b) paragraph 17 applies; or

(c) the result of any vote is invalid under this Rule.

17. Where in any round of voting the candidates all receive the same number of votes no candidate shall be elected at that election.

18. A candidate may withdraw that candidate’s candidature at any stage between the rounds of voting mentioned in paragraphs 13 to 16.

19. In counting the votes, the Clerk may disregard any ballot paper if, in the Clerk’s opinion, it does not clearly indicate the voter’s choice.

20. When a candidate has been elected in accordance with this Rule the person chairing the meeting shall announce the name of the candidate who has been elected. The person chairing the meeting shall also announce—

(a) after the count in a case where the provisions of paragraph 12 apply, the number of votes for and against the candidate and the number of votes to abstain; and

(b) after the count in any other case, the number of votes for each candidate, the number of votes to abstain and the name of any candidate who has been eliminated at that round.

21. Where no candidate is elected at an election held in accordance with this Rule, the person chairing the meeting shall announce that fact and arrange for another election to be held as soon as possible. The Clerk shall notify members of the day and time appointed for the voting period at that election.

21. Following a declaration that a candidate has been elected or that no candidate has been elected, the Clerk shall destroy all the ballot papers.

22. Where provisions contained in this temporary rule are in conflict with other standing order provisions, those in the temporary rule have precedence.

Temporary Rule 2

Oath of allegiance

1. This Rule applies to the administration of the oath of allegiance or a solemn affirmation at the beginning of Session 6. It ceases to apply on 30 June 2021.

2. Every person who is returned as a member shall take the oath of allegiance or shall make a solemn affirmation at a meeting of the Parliament before the Clerk. Taking the oath of allegiance or making a solemn affirmation can include appearing before the Clerk remotely by video-conference, hosted on such platform as may be provided by the Parliamentary corporation. A member shall not take part in any other proceedings of the Parliament until that member has done so.

3. A member may, immediately after taking the oath or making a solemn affirmation, repeat the oath or affirmation in a language other than English.

4. The member shall then sign a register kept by the Clerk for the purpose, indicating that the member has taken the oath or, as the case may be, made a solemn affirmation. Where a member has taken the oath of allegiance or made a solemn affirmation remotely, they shall sign the register at the earliest possible opportunity after doing so.

5. The Parliament’s power under section 84(3) (where a member fails to take the oath of allegiance) to decide, before the end of the period of two months within which a member must take the oath or make a solemn affirmation, to allow that member a longer period to do so is exercisable on a motion of any member. The motion is valid only if it is seconded by another member.

6. In these Rules, “oath of allegiance” means the oath in the form provided in section 2 of the Promissory Oaths Act 1868 (c.72) and “solemn affirmation” means the affirmation in the form provided in section 6(1) of the Oaths Act 1978 (c.19).

7. Where provisions contained in the temporary rule are in conflict with other standing order provisions, those in the temporary rule have precedence.

Temporary Rule 3

Access to the public gallery

1. In light of the ongoing public response to the Novel coronavirus COVID-19, members of the public shall not be admitted to the public gallery during any meeting of the Parliament from the date of dissolution until either such time as the newly elected Parliamentary corporation has taken a decision on public access to the Parliament, Holyrood or 30 June 2021, whichever is the earlier.

2. Notwithstanding paragraph 1, the Presiding Officer may decide to admit members of the public to the public gallery in advance of those timescales if relevant legislation and public health guidance allow for it.

3. Where provisions contained in the temporary rule are in conflict with other standing order provisions, those in the temporary rule have precedence.

(B) that, where provisions contained in the temporary rules are in conflict with other standing order provisions, those in the temporary rules have precedence.

That the Parliament agrees that the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 16) Regulations 2021 (SSI 2021/86) be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the Budget (Scotland) Act 2020 Amendment Regulations 2021 [draft] be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the Disability Assistance for Children and Young People (Scotland) Regulations 2021 [draft] be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the Scottish Landfill Tax (Standard Rate and Lower Rate) Order 2021 (SSI 2021/89) be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the Scottish Parliament (Elections etc.) Amendment (Coronavirus) Order 2021 [draft] be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the Social Security (Up-rating) (Miscellaneous Amendment) (Scotland) Regulations 2021 [draft] be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the Social Security Up-rating (Scotland) Order 2021 [draft] be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the Social Security Information-sharing (Scotland) Regulations 2021 [draft] be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (International Travel) (Managed Accommodation and Testing etc.) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2021 (SSI 2021/107) be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (International Travel) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 7) Regulations 2021 (SSI 2021/111) be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (International Travel) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 6) Regulations 2021 (SSI 2021/81) be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the Plant Health (EU Exit) (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 [draft] be approved.

That the Parliament agrees that the Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2021 [draft] be considered by the Parliament.—[Graeme Dey]

The Presiding Officer

We are slightly ahead of schedule, so I am minded to accept a motion without notice, under rule 11.2.4 of standing orders, to bring forward decision time to now. I invite the minister to move such a motion.

Motion moved,

That, under Rule 11.2.4, Decision Time be brought forward to 6.26 pm.—[Graeme Dey]

Motion agreed to.